I didn’t think Emme was ever going to start crawling. In fact, I was convinced she’d skip crawling all together and go straight to walking. But around the time of her first birthday, she finally started crawling and since then she’s started pulling herself up and walking assisted. I guess it’s officially time to baby proof the house.
Now that Emme is mobile, I’m trying to find activities that encourage movement while providing her with a safe way to learn and practice these new skills. With perfect timing, The Little Gym recently opened a location in Pensacola and I scheduled an introductory class for Emme.
The Little Gym offers programs for children from the age of 4 months to 12 years that revolve around active play giving children a safe space to direct their energy, build confidence, and develop key skills. The Parent/Child classes are for children ages 4 months to 3 years and are designed to teach motor skill development, muscle control, and coordination as well as skills like color recognition, language development, independence, sharing, and cooperation.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. With Emme being relatively new and timid to movement, I wasn’t sure that she was quite ready for the class but man, did she prove me wrong!
The Little Gym looks like your typical gymnastics gym… but on a smaller scale. There are bars, balance beams, and plenty of cushy foam mats and blocks. The space is clean and organized and rigorously sanitized after every class. The lobby offers a welcome desk and cubbies for storing shoes and personal items. There is also a classroom for activities and special events.
When we arrived to The Little Gym, we were greeted at the door by instructor Priscilla who remembered our names when we stopped by earlier that week to make our reservation. They had a foam mat laid out in the classroom with building blocks for the children to play with while we waited for the class to begin. The Birds (ages 10-19 months) class starts off with an introductory song to get to know each child and parent. The children are encouraged to participate but also explore the gym if they’ve lost interest.
The class progressed through different physical activities, most of which also involved song. As we moved around the gym, the instructor taught us how to help our child perform each task and also how each movement was related to our child’s development.
As an example, the children were encouraged to lay onto a foam barrel where they were rolled forward instinctively reaching out their arms to catch themselves and learning how to tuck their heads to successfully roll and avoid injury. This physical activity not only encouraged a new type of movement but it was also a lesson on equilibrium and boosted the development of their inner ear. Emme was more than happy to demonstrate to the other children how this was done since she crawled right over to the barrel and let the instructor guide her through the movements, which you can see in the video.
At the end of the 45 minute lesson, we had socialized with other children (and moms!), learned new songs, walked across a balance beam, waved a parachute, swung from bars, tumbled on a barrel, played with balls, popped what felt like a hundred bubbles, and had an overall really great time.
The Little Gym Pensacola is located on Sorrento Road near NAS Pensacola and has classes scheduled throughout the week for children of all ages. (If you’re not local, The Little Gym is located in 29 countries with locations all across the US so there’s sure to be a location near you. There’s a location in Orange Park for all you Jacksonville friends!) To find out more information on classes and schedules, visit thelittlegym.com/pensacolaFL.